Strong networks: Health research in Germany
In health research, the focus is on people – with the aim being to use the results to benefit patients as quickly as possible and also to improve prevention. The Corona pandemic has once again highlighted the need for ambitious health research. With the first test to reveal a SARS-Cov-2 infection and the first vaccine to be approved in the EU, Germany has made some important contributions here.
These successes have come about, most significantly, thanks to strong networks and broadly based studies funded extensively by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). Since 2009, the Ministry has been developing “German Centres for Health Research”, of which there are now six, working at around 80 sites with more than 100 participating universities, clinics and non-university research institutions. They focus on the specialist areas of cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, infections, pulmonary research and neurodegenerative disorders. Two further centres are planned.
Unique study Europe-wide with 200,000 participants
The NAKE health study also serves to help fight widespread diseases. The approximately 200,000 participants are being monitored over a period of 20 to 30 years, with data gathered on their health and lifestyles, on environmental influences and much more besides. In terms of sheer scale and specific depth this study, which is financed by the BMBF, the Helmholtz Association and the participating federal states, is unique within Europe.
Against the background of the Corona pandemic, in 2020 the BMBF also launched the “Netzwerk Universitätsmedizin”, a network linking up all the university hospitals in Germany. Through this, hospitals are able to share their experiences in treating Covid-19 patients and are working together on projects to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus. The network is to remain in place even beyond the pandemic to allow for better preparation in case of future crises.
Another key to fighting the pandemic is the development of vaccines, and Germany is a founder-member of the international vaccination initiative CEPI. Between 2017 and 2021, the BMBF funded CEPI to the tune of 90 million euros and is providing additional funding due to the pandemic. Since 2020 there has also been a special program with a budget of 750 million euros to bolster vaccine research in Germany. The companies receiving funding include vaccine developer BioNTech, whose vaccine was approved in December 2020.